The History of the SSO

The orchestra was founded as the Salisbury Orchestral Society on 16th October 1917 by Sir Walter Alcock, Organist of Salisbury Cathedral with Sir Edward Elgar as its first President.  Originally comprising only string players, a number of joint concerts were held with the Salisbury Musical Society.  In 1931, the string players decided to ‘go it alone’, adding a small wind section a year later.  In 1933, this was expanded to a full symphony orchestra, thanks to the work, amongst others, of Mr C. P. Merry, father of Eileen, our Secretary for 50 years.  

In November 1938 a joint concert of the Salisbury Orchestral Society with the Salisbury Musical Society was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, who from 1923 until his death, was a Vice President of the Society.

John Milne, Director of Music at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, conducted the Society before and after the war until 1959 when Dr Christopher Dearnley, Mr Richard Lloyd, Dr Richard Seal, and now Mr David Halls — all Organists or Assistant Organists at the Cathedral — have successively been our conductors.

In 1963, our regular concert venue was changed from the Guildhall to the newly opened City Hall, and the orchestra expanded rapidly to its present membership of around 65 core players to which additional players are added as required for the works being performed.
On 3rd October 2003 the Orchestra voted to change its name from the Salisbury Orchestral Society to the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra as a better reflection of its true identity.

Concerts in Salisbury City Hall are regularly held in association with local charities as a means of raising awareness of these charities’ aims and also acting as a focus for fundraising.